Evita Paschall’s last name has two “l’s” in it. Mine doesn’t.
That’s important to point out because I’ve heard from lots of people during this campaign season who wonder if I am related to the Augusta lawyer. I’m not.
Once that’s clear, it’s easier to understand why I am not supporting Paschall in the Augusta Judicial Circuit district attorney’s race. Of course, I’ve had relatives run for office before – Christopher Hudson is the most recent example – so that’s certainly no guarantee of support anyway.
In this case? I’m supporting Ashley Wright for re-election.
There are a lot of reasons for re-electing Wright, but the best reason is that she’s good at what she does. She’s a prosecutor. Her job is to take the cases brought to her by law enforcement, sort out the good from the bad, and see the good cases through to trial or plea.
Wright was assistant district attorney under the outstanding tutelage of Danny Craig for 12 years, and has been DA since 2008. She’s handled more than 80 felony jury trials, including significant death penalty cases such as Reinaldo Rivera. She’s active in community organizations such as the Junior League, Shelter and Advocacy Center for Children and the Rape Crisis Center.
One thing Wright is not is a raving loon, an opinion you understandably might reach regarding her opponent if you see the video in which Paschall tells Columbia County Democrats that she expects to win the DA post because she “claimed it, it’s been washed in the blood,” and that she sealed the deal by driving around the courthouse 10 times.
I am not making this up.
Less loony, but perhaps funnier, is the video (you also can find it on YouTube), where Paschall is explaining her qualifications. “I have over 20 years of prosecutorial experience,” she says. “And what I mean by prosecutorial experience, I’ve been prosecuting for over 20 years.”
Thanks for clearing that up.
This isn’t Paschall’s first run for office. She was one of 10 people who sought Charlie Norwood’s congressional seat after his death in 2007, and while she by far was not the worst or weirdest of that bunch, she definitely wasn’t in the top tier of candidates, either. Paschall came in a distant fifth place with less than 4 percent of the vote.
In a perfect world, Paschall would come in third in the race against Wright, behind write-in votes for Mickey Mouse. But it’s not a perfect world, in spite of the daily efforts of people like Wright who work thanklessly to improve it and make it safer.
What’s really disconcerting is that Paschall is one of a handful of candidates this year in Augusta whose primary qualification for seeking office is skin color. An Augusta group this year set out to recruit black candidates to run in every race in Augusta, and they succeeded. Hence, people like Wright are being challenged solely based on race, and even though there’s nothing in their record deserving of opposition.
With racial politics being what they are in Augusta, and despite her woeful inadequacy for the job, it’s not inconceivable that Paschall could win the race in Richmond County. She’s on the same ballot with fellow black Democrats Barack Obama and Richard Roundtree and could surf along on a wave of color-conscious voting.
But winning Augusta doesn’t mean winning the Augusta Judicial Circuit, which also includes Columbia and Burke counties. Voters in Columbia County can turn the tide by giving a resounding endorsement to Wright’s re-election.
Early voting starts Monday. I expect my fellow Columbia County voters to help re-elect District Attorney Ashley Wright – not because she’s white, but because she’s right.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go drive around the courthouse 10 times.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/barry